John Cornwell was a freelance photographer who took many photographs of collieries, mostly in south Wales and the English Midlands, both underground and on the surface, during the 1970s and early 1980s. He perfected a method of underground photography using the standard colliery lighting and was able to photograph coal faces, roadways, shafts and equipment with amazing clarity. In addition to photographing working mines he also recorded abandoned mine workings, above and below ground.
John Cornwell was also well respected in the broader field of industrial archaeology. He published a number of books on Welsh and English collieries.
The copyright of his south Wales images are now owned by National Museum Wales.
John Cornwell: Colliery photos
A mine official examining a section of a cage of a water balance machine, near the pit bottom of the Forge Pit (Big Pit), 1975
Bill Gunter standing at the archway to Dick Kear's Slope, driven around 1820. Big Pit.
Bill Gunter, the Big Pit safety officer, on the G11 face in 1979
Colliery horse returning to Big Pit surface stables from the Washery in 1968.
Forge level, driven c.1812, later incorporated into the Big Pit underground complex .
General surface view, Big Pit 1975.
Junction near pit bottom, Big Pit 1975, now part of the museum's underground tour.
Last day for Glyn Morgan, the last National Coal Board Manager, on 28 November 1980.
New roadway driven from the drift entrance with conveyor belt carrying coal from the Garw Seam, Big Pit 1975.
The Big Pit manager, Glyn Morgan, talking to Billy 'Pigeon' Preece (seated), Big Pit 1975
Two Blaenavon miners in the timber yard at the end of the morning shift, 1978.
Ammanford Colliery, 1974, a journey of empty drams being lowered into the slant.
Ammanford Colliery, 1974, Gerald Gibson drilling a shot hole on the coal face.
Ammanford Colliery, 1974, Mr P.A. Jones, Safety Officer inspecting the roof on the last coal face.
Cwmgwili Colliery, a completed drivage supported by timber, 1978
Betws Mine, the afternoon shift waiting for the manriding train, c.1976
Cwmgwili Colliery, 1978, a Joy Loader and operators ready to commence work.
Cwmgwili Colliery, 1978, afternoon shift waiting for their ride at the entrance of the mine.
Cynheidre Colliery, main trunk road with high speed conveyor, c.1978
Cynheidre Colliery,coal drams at an underground loading point, c.1978
Morlais Colliery, a general view, note the derelict engine pumping house, 1978
Morlais Colliery, general view looking east across the River Llwchwr, 1978.
Bargoed Colliery, 20 May 1977.
Deep Duffryn Colliery, two pitmen inspecting the shaft from the roof of the cage, 1977-78.
Deep Navigation Colliery, the downcast headframe, c.1978
Fernhill Colliery, the jib of an AB 15 hydraulic undercutter on a timbered longwall face.
Ffaldau Colliery, 1977, the pit head.
Lady Windsor Colliery, steam locomotive with the upcast shaft in the background, 1977
Lewis Merthyr Colliery, 1977, hydraulic roof supports in the yard waiting to be taken underground.
Maerdy Colliery, 1977, empty mine cars waiting at pit top.
Merthyr Vale Colliery downcast shaft, c.1980
Nantgarw Colliery, 1978, Anderson Strathclyde drum shearer cutting coal on the coal face.
Penrhiwceiber Colliery Pit bottom, 1978.
Taff Merthyr Colliery in the late 1970s.
Taff Merthyr Colliery, heading with Dosco road heading machine and auxiliary ventilation, 1979.
Tower Colliery, 'Rex' with his ostler, 1979.
Ty Mawr Colliery, the remains of an underground ventilation furnace which date back to the late 1870s.
Aberpergwm Colliery, Dosco Road heading machine and auxiliary fan ducting, c.1978
Abernant Colliery, miner at a pumping station at pit bottom, 1978
Aberpergwm, 1972, entrance of the new drift mine.
Cefn Coed Colliery engine house for the Markham engine on the upcast shaft 1973.
Cefn Coed Colliery, 1973, engine house and downcast shaft headframe.
Garw Colliery in 1977, with village in the background.
Graig Merthyr Colliery yard in 1977 with a long journey of drams waiting to be run into the mine.
Graig Merthyr Colliery, line of drams in the Graigola Seam - note the unsupported sandstone roof, c.1977
Modern concrete viaduct linking the mine with the washery, Blaengwrach Colliery, c.1977.
Overmen inspecting a shearer on the Six Feet Seam, Brynlliw Colliery 15 December 1977
St John's Colliery, Anderson Strathclyde shearer, c.1979
Treforgan Colliery with the afternoon shift waiting to descend 1979
Wyndham/Western Colliery, turntable near pit bottom, c.1979
Coegnant Colliery 1978, prop and bar face.
Blaenserchan colliery in 1973.
Blaenserchen Colliery pit bottom in 1979 with supplies and a dram of waste.
Celynen South Colliery, 1978.
Cwmtillery Colliery pit bottom, 22 November 1977
Cwmtillery Colliery, decorative brickwork on ventilation fan building, 1980
Hafodyrynys Colliery, electric locomotive at the entrance to the drift in 1968.
Llanhilleth Colliery, the lattice headframe on the No.2 shaft, 1975.
Marine Colliery, 1974, a 'Western' class locomotive - the 'Western Consort'.
Markham Colliery yard, 1977
North Celynen Colliery, 1975
Oakdale Colliery, coal conveyor attendant, c.1978
Oakdale Colliery, electric locomotive near the pit bottom, c.1978